Staten Island’s North Shore could lose one of its biggest supermarkets if the latest neighborhood overhaul plan being pushed by City Hall passes.
The large Western Beef on Bay Street is listed as one of 30 businesses that rezoning of a 14-block stretch of Tompkinsville and Stapleton is “likely to potentially directly displace,” according to a recent analysis by the Department of City Planning.
Residents and community leaders told THE CITY that if the Stapleton Western Beef disappears, several neighborhoods with few other options for groceries will suffer.
“The Western Beef is a pillar of the community in that many people come from all over — Stapleton, St. George, Tompkinsville — to shop there, because it’s the biggest supermarket in the area,” said Priscillia Marco, president of the Van Duzer Street Civic Association.
The supermarket’s Bay Street location serves a population that’s less likely to have access to a car than other Staten Islanders. About 13.3% of North Shore residents have no access to a car, compared to 4.4% of those who live in Mid-Island and 3.1% of South Shore residents, according to 2017 data from the American Community Survey.
The 30,000-square-foot supermarket, which includes a large parking lot, is on land owned by M. Parisi & Son Construction Co., Inc. that city planners project will likely be redeveloped to contain three buildings.
In its report, the Department of City Planning points to a Key Food that’s one-third the size and about half a mile away, on the edge of Tompkinsville at 155 Bay St., as an adequate alternative.
“The potential direct displacement of Western Beef grocery store is not expected to result in significant adverse socioeconomic impacts,” the report states.
But North Shore residents who spoke to THE CITY said they prefer Western Beef because of its prices, variety and number of cashiers.
“I never go there,” Caroline Lopez, a Stapleton resident, said of the Key Food — while shopping at Western Beef. “It’s further from me, the lines are too long and I don’t want to pay those prices. This place is the cheapest.”
Marco, a Grymes Hill resident, said that Western Beef is “different than the little Key Food. That’s a very small store. And parking is a problem there.”
Vote Expected Soon
The City Council is expected to vote on the rezoning before June 9. If it passes, the plan will go to Mayor Bill de Blasio for final approval.
Under City Council convention, all members usually vote in solidarity with a project’s local representative. North Shore Councilmember Debi Rose, a Democrat, has said she intends to vote for the proposal, provided it pegs affordable housing at lower rents than the City Planning Commission allowed.
Rose downplayed the chances of Western Beef closing, saying in a statement to THE CITY that it’s “one of many possibilities” detailed and that there’s enough demand for a new supermarket.
“We have no indication from the owners of the Western Beef property that they intend to close the store,” said Rose.
Rose continued, “Should the property owners decide to close the store, I believe there would be sufficient demand for another property owner to site a grocery store in the Stapleton-Tompkinsville area.”
The City Planning report noted that the area is eligible for the FRESH program, which incentivizes grocers to locate there.
Dawn Addabbo, Western Beef’s chief administrative officer, told THE CITY that the company didn’t know about the report, and declined to comment after reviewing City Planning’s executive summary.
The property owners, Parisi and Son, did not reply to multiple attempts to reach them for comment.
A spokesperson for the Department of City Planning noted that Western Beef’s fate isn’t sealed.
“We understand Western Beef has a long term lease, and nothing in this proposal will require that they leave,” said Rachaele Raynoff. “They can continue to serve the community as they do today. The Bay Street Corridor Plan is forward thinking, and proposed zoning will allow for more food stores than are allowed under today’s out-of-date zoning — something we heard from the community was important for current and future residents.”
Bay Street is among a half dozen areas de Blasio selected nearly five years ago to power his affordable housing plan. City Planning projects 1,800 apartments, housing some 6,500 people, will emerge from the rezoning of the commercial strip.
One Stapleton resident told THE CITY that if Western Beef closed, she would stop shopping in the area.
“I’m lucky, I can drive from the Stop and Shop on Richmond Avenue close to where I work,” said Alexandra Pagano, 22, referring to a mid-island supermarket in Willowbrook. “But that’s not the case for a lot of the people who live here.”
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